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New Post Office performs poorly, as predicted

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A disgruntled queue: In the Post Office in Aberystwyth’s WHSmith (Pic. Nicki Wilkins)

A disgruntled queue: In the Post Office in Aberystwyth’s WHSmith (Pic. Nicki Wilkins)

ON MONDAY (Dec 12), The Herald began receiving reports of pandemonium in the newly opened Post Office in WHSmith on Terrace Road in Aberystwyth.

Texts, tweets and Facebook posts reported ‘angry people’, ‘not pleasant’, and ‘epic fail Post Office!’ One eye-witness, Nicki Wilkins, told The Herald that she waited more than 20 minutes in a queue of at least 18 people: “One elderly lady was not happy at having to stand so long to get her pension. A member of the public helpfully fetched her a chair. In the queue, there was lots of complaining, tutting and raised eyebrows. Some people walked in then straight back out again after seeing the queue. I overheard someone say: ‘How is this an improvement? The other one was spacious; this is cramped’.”

Refusing to blame the queue and delays on a Christmas rush, Post Office counter staff agreed that it was ‘always like this in here’. They told customers that they simply do not have enough counters to serve from. Helpful as they are, the counter staff inevitably bear the brunt of people’s anger when they are forced to wait for so long.

Counter staff told customers that the Post Office at WHSmith were considering installing a self-service counter for buying stamps and posting parcels. One Save Aberystwyth Post Office campaigner said: “We, the citizens, worked bloody hard to get Smiths to listen to us and we predicted that it would be awful.”

As campaigners to keep the Crown Post Office on Great Darkgate Street open forecasted, The Herald understands that the UKVI Biometric Enrolment Service is not currently available at the Post Office in WHSmith on Terrace Road. The service is essential in a town with vital international connections, not least Aberystwyth University. Foreign nationals from outside the European Economic Area often need to apply for a Biometric Residence Permit (BRP). A BRP proves the holder’s right to stay, work or study in the United Kingdom. Contrary to the reports that we have received, however, the Post Office website claims the BRP service is available in the Post Office in WHSmith on Terrace Road. As The Herald goes to press, we have not managed to get an answer from the Post Office in WHSmith about the availability of the BRP service. Herald readers, please do write in and let us know about your experiences with the BRP and other Post Office services in WHSmith.

UK-WIDE INDUSTRIAL ACTION

The pandemonium in Aberystwyth will be matched in Post Offices across the UK next week when workers take industrial action. Post Office Ltd state that they expect industrial action to affect ‘a small number of our branches’ on Monday (Dec 19) and Tuesday (Dec 20). They expect that ‘strike action will affect less than three hundred of our branches, and 97% of our 11,600 branches will be operating as normal. Royal Mail also expects its services to ‘be operating as normal’.

The Communications Workers Union (CWU) plan to stage five days of strikes in the run-up to Christmas. A long-running dispute over jobs, pensions and branch closures lies behind the walkout, which is expected to include Christmas Eve. CWU previously took industrial action in September this year and again in October. Staff and management are in dispute over the closure of a final salary pension scheme, job losses and the franchising of Crown Post Offices, mostly to WHSmith. Crown Post Offices are larger branches, such as the former Great Darkgate Street branch, which offer a full range of services. Traditionally, Crown Post Offices are sited on high streets in the heart of the town and community.

Dave Ward, CWU’s General Secretary, said his members were being ‘forced into fighting to save their jobs and this great institution from terminal decline’: “We didn’t want to be in this position but, unless we stand up now, the Post Office as we know it will cease to exist. We are defending the very future of the Post Office in this country.

“We want a Post Office that works for everyone; for communities, for small and medium-sized businesses, and for the people who serve them – our hard working members – but the people running the Post Office have no serious plan other than further closures and managed decline, and we won’t accept that.”

The CWU accuses Post Office Ltd of launching ‘an unprecedented attack on the jobs, job security and pensions of thousands of hard-working and loyal Post Office workers’. The union claims it is Post Office Ltd which is dictating a ‘path of conflict and industrial disputes’.

It is not known whether the Post Office in WHSmith will be affected by any of the days of industrial action. To be on the safe side and to avoid the delays that are already causing pandemonium in WHSmith, Herald readers are advised to access Post Office services in Penparcau, Waunfawr or villages that have been fortunate enough to retain sub Post Offices. So, post early for Christmas – or maybe send an email and use a parcel courier!

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Police advise ‘hang up on suspicious callers’

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A NATIONAL telephone scam, aiming to steal money, has reached residents living within the Dyfed-Powys area.

Paul Callard, of Dyfed-Powys Police’s Financial Crime Team, said: “Action Fraud has today  made us aware three people living in Dyfed-Powys have been contacted by fraudsters claiming to be from BT, in the past four days. While three people have reported, we suspect many more have been targeted.

“Victims receive a telephone call from someone pretending to be from BT who is calling due to a problem with the victim’s internet connection speed. During the call the victim is asked to open their online banking, eBay, Tesco and other accounts. The scammer then tries to gain remote access to the victim’s computer to empty the victim’s bank account.

“BT will never ask for remote access to your computer or access to your online bank account. We urge anyone who receives unsolicited/cold calls from any company hang up immediately. Do not enter into conversation with them, provide them with any personal details or send them any money. You should only phone the company back using a trusted phone number.”

If you have been the victim of fraud, attempted fraud, or cyber crime, or have received a potential scam message or computer virus but no money has been lost or you haven’t responded to it, report it to Action Fraud either online or by calling 0300 123 2040.

For further advice and information on how to avoid being scammed visit www.actionfraud.police.uk.

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Four arrested as man remains in ‘critical condition’

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FOUR men have been arrested after a man was hospitalised in the early hours of Sunday morning (Jan 14).

19-year-old Ifan Richards Owen is in hospital in critical condition after the attack.

The incident took place in High Street, Aberystwyth, at approximately 2:20am.

Four men, aged 19, 20, 23 and 25 have been arrested on suspicion of grievous bodily harm with intent.

They are in police custody.

Police are now appealing for witnesses to contact them as a matter of urgency.

DCI Anthony Evans, of Dyfed-Powys Police, said: “We are issuing a fresh appeal for witnesses to the assault on Ifan Richards Owens, aged 19, which occurred on High Street, Aberystwyth at around 2.20am on Sunday, January 14.

“In particular we would like to speak to anyone who gave first aid to Mr Owens before emergency services arrived.

“Mr Owens remains in hospital in a critical condition.

“We would urge anyone with any information that could assist in our investigation any witnesses to the incident or anyone who may have any CCTV or video footage of the incident to contact police on 101, quoting incident number 402 of January 14. Alternatively, call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

“Four men, aged 25, 23, 20 and 19, have been arrested on suspicion of grievous bodily harm with intent and remain in police custody at this time.”

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£750,000 funding for highway improvements

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CEREDIGION COUNTY COUNCIL has recently been awarded almost £750,000 of additional grant funding from the Welsh Government’s Local Transport Fund and Road Safety Capital Grant to carry out further highways improvement schemes in the County.

£596,000 has been allocated from the Local Transport Fund for various schemes across the county which will include removing the pinch point on the C1010 at Gogerddan, near Penrhyncoch. £249,000 of funding is allocated for active travel improvements in Aberystwyth to create an improved shared use path along Boulevard St Brieuc which will continue along the side of the Police Station and up Park Avenue towards Glyndwr Road. A pedestrian crossing on Boulevard St Brieuc will be upgraded to a new toucan crossing, which cyclists can also use alongside pedestrians. This will be the first of its kind in Ceredigion.

The funding will also purchase a new scooter shelter at Plascrug Primary School. Head Teacher Menna Sweeney said: “This is great news because the shelter purchased just 16 months ago following grant funded works on the Avenue cannot cope with current demand due to the amount of children scooting and cycling to the school every day. This is really helping to alleviate the traffic congestion problems previously experienced in the area”.

Two new public cycle repair stands with integrated cycle pumps will be installed in Aberystwyth. One will be placed outside Plascrug Leisure Centre and the other on Aberystwyth University Penglais Campus.

Councillor Alun Williams, Cabinet Member for Transport said: “I’m delighted that we’ve managed to obtain funding to further improve facilities for pedestrians and cyclists. The work will complement the new Parc Kronberg Skate Park and improve the look of this important gateway into Aberystwyth by increasing the number of trees and spreading them wider along Park Avenue as well as renewing the currently uneven section of pavement on the street.”

Additional funding has been allocated to the Cardigan Active Travel Area Year 2 Scheme,  which earlier this year saw a new 20mph zone with traffic calming outside Cardigan Secondary School and a new footway link and pedestrian refuge crossing on Aberystwyth Road. The extra funding will fund footway widening on Pontycleifion Road and the provision of new dropped kerbs to assist mobility and pushchair users to improve the link between the Town Centre and Parc Teifi Industrial Estate.

Deputy Leader of the Council Cllr Ray Quant MBE and Cabinet Member for Technical Services said: “I’m delighted that Ceredigion residents will benefit from a further three quarters of a million pounds funding from the Welsh Government for transport schemes throughout the County and I look forward to seeing the improvements which should be completed by the end of March 2018.”

A Road Safety Capital Grant of £149,963 will fund the replacement of 15 Vehicle Activated Signs. These signs alert drivers exceeding the speed limit to slow down at locations with a history of personal injury collisions.

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